Harlem politicos urge unity in wake of Eric Garner grand jury decision

Former New York State assemblymember Adam Clayton Powell IV said that community members should focus on eliminating racism and building relations with police.

“Now, more than ever, we must unite—as our councilwoman said—as a people, because we are on the attack,” Powell said.

“Police brutality, folks, is at an all-time high. When you have some, some who think that the badge is a license to kill,” Powell said. “I mean what we saw on videotape is an all-time low. A man who was unarmed, not threatening to himself or to anyone, his worst offense maybe selling loose cigarettes, and for that, he got killed, using an illegal maneuver, a chokehold.

Holiday cheer met concerns about police brutality at a Harlem holiday toy drive last week as political figures emphasized neighborhood unity in the wake of the grand jury decision regarding Eric Garner’s death.

Among dozens of toys donated by locals, District 9 City Council member Inez Dickens and former New York State assemblymember Adam Clayton Powell IV said that community members should focus on eliminating racism and building relations with police.

“We must celebrate that we must stand together united, we must be focused and never forget that in this country racism is alive and well, and allowed to prevail,” Dickens said.

“Now, more than ever, we must unite—as our councilwoman said—as a people, because we are on the attack,” Powell said.

Their comments came during a toy drive organized by the West Harlem Club and hosted by the new restaurant By The Hudson last Thursday night. The event gathered dozens of toys for the holiday season and stressed the importance of community given this week’s past verdict, attracting local politicians to speak.

Both Dickens and Powell spoke about the Garner case as an example of police brutality that needs to be addressed.

“Police brutality, folks, is at an all-time high. When you have some, some who think that the badge is a license to kill,” Powell said. “I mean what we saw on videotape is an all-time low. A man who was unarmed, not threatening to himself or to anyone, his worst offense maybe selling loose cigarettes, and for that, he got killed, using an illegal maneuver, a chokehold.”

Dickens said that locals should remember that the majority of police are not bad people.

“Most of the police are men and women that are committed to protecting the community without abusing the community,” Dickens said. “There are those few that should not be allowed to be tolerated to police our streets, that should not be allowed to walk amongst us, and if they abuse the law of the land, then they should be punished, be brought on trial and punished, just as each and every one of us would be.”

The toys and funds donated at the drive will be given to the nearby 26th, 30th, and 33rd NYPD precincts to be distributed to local children.

West Harlem Club President Corey Ortega said that while several police officers from the precincts were invited, most were called downtown to respond to protesters outraged by the Staten Island grand jury’s decision to not indict the police officer who killed Garner.

In addition to $11,000 raised from local companies—$500 each from Rooms 4 Rent and Harlem Dine Corp and $10,000 from Mead Chasky Sports Enterprises, Inc., in the form of Yankees Reggie Jackson beanie bears—attendees dropped off more than 100 toys, ranging from dolls and cars to bubble wands.